I once saw a great interview with Gordon Ramsey, in which when asked about whether RamGord was behind the stoves in any of the restaurants branded with his name, he went into a great rant about whether the journo actually expected that Giorgio Armani had personally stitched the Armani suit the journo was wearing. He had a good point perhaps, but perhaps not a perfect point.
There are certain types of food (and perhaps certain particular restaurants) where the food may depend on the actual physical skill of the person preparing it. It is often said that good sushi depends just as much on the chef’s knowledge as his actual physical technique in making it; hands that are too small, too warm or too week just cannot physically make the perfect bed of rice on which to lay the perfectly cut bit of dead protein.
Perhaps pizza may be the same. I once had a discussion with a pizza chef from the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, who said that in training to become a pizza chef, a process that takes a number of years apparently, the first year was spend doing nothing but kneading the dough. In the case of a pizza restaurant using a wood fired oven (that gets extra points, especially given that they appear to be using hand-cut oak to fire it), it surely takes a number of years experience to get a feeling for how the oven is operating at any one time; how hot the floor is, how hot the walls are, whether extra wood needs to be added, whether there is too much smoke in the over, and most importantly how long the pizza should be left in to reach the perfect state where the dough is perfectly cooked and the cheese, just starting to bubble.
Salvatore is by and large my favourite pizza joint in Tokyo. The person behind the Salvatore chain is a guy called Makoto Onishi, one of the only (perhaps the only) non-native to win the Naples Pizzafest competition. I am sure he is good, if the best of Naples say that he is good, he must be very good. And whilst the pizzas at Salvatore are very good, it was clear that he was not wielding the peel today.
The food: A very good pizza, the tomato sauce had the perfect balance of tangyness and fruityness, the mozzarella was buffalo and generously applied; the olive oil was seeping through the pizza onto the plate leaving a nice puddle to be mopped up. But the bottom was burnt. I love this place, I love their pizzas, I was looking forward to one today, but the burnt flavour just cuts through everything. I have faith in this place, I will visit again, but the guy with the peel was not having the perfect day when he put my lunch in the oven . 25 points.
The price: 1,400 yen for a pizza, drink, cold soup and a couple of leaves masquerading as salad (nice dressing though) 5 points.
The volume: Good size pizzas, a bit more in the way of salad leaves would be nice though, it is not as though lettuce is expensive at this time of year. 10 points.
The extras: A salad, soup, drink and pizza in the set is not bad, but surely a salad can be more than a couple of lettuce leaves. 8 points.
Bonus: For using a wood fired oven, and burning proper hard grain wood in it – 20 points. For not being able to use the thing properly – minus 5 points. 15 points.
The details: 1 Fl Prudential Plaza, 2-13-10, Nagatacho Chiyoda-ku
Phone 03 3500 5700